PopCap Games Should Stay on Steam, Says EA

Out With the Old, in with the New

Early last week, EA’s acquisition of the revered casual game developer, PopCap, met with a tepid reception from long-time fans. Purchased for as much as $1.3 billion, the Plants vs Zombies and Peggle creators, however, received a warm welcome into the giant publisher’s extended family. In a memo sent to EA’s employees, CEO John Riccitiello said:

You will see EA is making a strong and smart deal in acquiring PopCap. And… beyond the business rationale, and the strategic rationale, I believe PopCap and EA share very, very similar cultural values. Above all, we both put the quality of our games first…

In recent months, PopCap has received a lot of offers, including bids from other game companies. Ultimately, PopCap chose EA. Their leadership team tells us that in the end, the decision swung on their recognition of our culture — the respect that EA shows for games and the teams that create them.

Still, Riccitiello did not shy away from reality. PopCap, whose yearly revenue comes to roughly $100 million, is a strategic purchase for a corporation which is striving towards a $1 billion digital market for fiscal year 2012.

There is no denying that what we announced today was a business transaction – a full and fair price for a company that has demonstrated they can sustain success and transform to meet and set the pace for high-growth gaming platforms.

In the wake of such a costly transaction, EA’s market target for next year seems modest; but, in the long-term, PopCap’s assimilation may prove incredibly valuable, especially as casual gaming continues its relentless spread across platforms like Facebook – where gaming is ruled by Zynga – and EA’s newly re-branded marketplace, Origin.

Where is home now for the lovable plants?

Indeed, many gamers have expressed concern that PopCap’s games may now be pulled from Valve’s digital distribution platform, Steam, and made available exclusively on Origin. Their fears are not unfounded: Recently, Crysis 2 was removed from Steam and transferred to Origin, but EA later commented that it was a matter of “business terms” and not “an EA decision”. To date, the only confirmed “Origin exclusive” is upcoming MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Hoping to clear the air, BnB contacted EA for answers. With history in mind, we asked whether PopCap classics would be waving a teary goodbye to Steam and migrating to Origin, or staying put on familiar ground. Their answer was curt: “Players should see no impact on any of their favourite PopCap games.” For the meantime, then, it seems as if the likes of Zuma and Bejeweled will not need to pack their bags, though PopCap’s future titles may not share a similar fate.

EA was certainly keen on emphasising the preservation of PopCap’s quirky self, perhaps in an effort to quash any speculation that the company will be unscrupulously consumed. In correspondence with BnB, an EA spokesman said: “We don’t have any plans to change what PopCap does – we intend to preserve and foster the individual identity of the PopCap team that has delivered the great, blockbuster games like Plants vs. Zombies, Bejeweled and Zuma.”

Considering the colossal cost of PopCap’s acquisition, rather than put everything on red, EA may well maintain the status quo for the foreseeable future.

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